Design Matters in Self-Defense Instruction Part 2 – Tammy Yard-McCracken

One quick way to frustrate a female student is to shut this down. In the beginning, telling her this discovery and curiosity is wrong, may work. It will work out of her respect for the instructor’s knowledge and skillset. It will work in strong ‘Sensei Cultures’ where no one questions the Sensei. It will work if she has intuited that to be accepted in a male-dominated class she needs to act like a guy – it will work because she is socially programmed to behave appropriately. Squashing her brain’s need and ability to run through all the train lines, into all the stops and tie together the similarities while filtering out the differences works because she is being outwardly compliant and wants the approval she will get by not being “the girl” in the class.

But give her time. As she gains confidence, skill and comfort in the male-dominated culture that interconnected superhighway in her brain is going to win out. And it should. This is one of her superpowers but if the instructor is not ready for it, he (or she – female instructors often take on the modeled male approach to teaching) will shut it down.

Here is an example. An instructor-level student is training with a cohort of instructors under a senior level guy. The skill being drilled and its related problem piqued her curiosity. She was having a hard time getting her body to do what the technique called for so she intentionally did a few repetitions incorrectly. Senior instructor walks by and asks her what she’s doing. Her answer was something like this:

“Trying to find out what happens if I don’t do this right – trying to figure out how to find the right motivation for my body to do the technique correctly…”

This did not go well. The senior guy snapped at her “just DO the technique!” – the verbal punishment was big enough everyone nearby stopped to see what the commotion was about and her training partner muttered…wow, you pissed him off!

Later, the instructor apologized.

This story is an example of what all that white matter is programmed to do. Her investigation of the training and the technique is anchored in the same neurological design that causes her to investigate those gloves, or ask a myriad of questions, or expect contingencies and exploration of options in a business meeting. This story is also an example of a tangle of social programs, expectations and failure points.

The senior instructor is frustrated by her because she is going off the reservation. She isn’t listening to him. She isn’t working the drill. He may even experience her actions as disrespectful. In traditional training cultures, her behavior is unacceptable. Note here, traditional does not apply solely to the context of ‘traditional martial arts’. Mixed Martial Arts and modern self-defense programs can fit in this box as well. The frustrated instructor may also be a woman. Just because her brain is also genetically programmed to run through the complex channels and plethora of possibilities, she has likely adjusted to the classic martial teaching paradigm and may interpret her student’s behavior through the same filters as her male colleagues.

To bring the wayward student back to task and back in line there will be corrective punishment. The punishment can be overt as in the story above, it can be subtle and back-channeled, it can be demonstrated in continued biting remarks, shaming, or open shunning. This leaves her with a choice. Handicap her strength to avoid punishment and remain connected to her training community, or leave. There is a third option, what about speaking to the instructor? This may work – if he is open to the conversation and if she has the science to back up why she wants to test these training approaches (she’ll need this to be able to articulate)– and the culture of the training program is focused on the successes of the students not the reputation of the instructors. That’s a significant number of caveats and significant socio-psychological inhibitors to a successful outcome.

There is a myriad of teaching methodologies to bring a student, any student studying any-thing, back to a specific task without punishing a student’s natural functional learning modalities. Male and female, how our brains are wired influences how we learn and how we train. In a particularly goal-oriented environment like the dojo, the superhighway of white matter connectivity in the female brain may present as an anathema. What’s really cool though, is this connectivity can be developed further and can be enhanced/increased in any brain1. The instructor who stays curious will default less frequently to classic obedient=good expectations. This instructor will create a permissive training culture and when she wants to find out what happens when she performs the technique incorrectly, he is going to be curious right along with her. It won’t be a threat to this instructor’s ego, authority or leadership. And out of this discovery training model, their partnership may uncover another possibility in response to the problem and more importantly, she learns an invaluable lesson: trust your instincts.

  1. Pick up Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code if you are intrigued.

Design Matters in Self-Defense Instruction Part 1 – Tammy Yard-McCracken

Every once in a while, a story hits the media about someone touting the differences between men and women as the source of abilities (or lack thereof) related to science, math or military service. Welcome to proof-texting, taking a quote or data point out of context adding validation to an otherwise erroneous argument. Proof-texting works for the women can’t do science type of arguments because there are subtle differences between male and female brains. Using these differences as arguments to bolster positions about intelligence or aptitude is categorically without merit. Understanding how the differences influence decision-making can go a long way to effectively manage communication at the broad stroke level. Conflict management and prevention, applications to negotiations, sales, and all forms of personal and commercial relationship can benefit.

Let’s look specifically at an area of communication and relationship with a dominantly male leadership community and a target demographic largely female. Self-defense.

If you want to frustrate a female student, assume she is wired just like a male student. There are a variety of ways we can investigate learning and processing differences among all our students – again – regardless of gender, for this conversation I want to look at where gender differences can matter.

Specifically, take into consideration two structural/design differences between the male and the female brain1:

  1. The male brain has about 6x more grey matter and the female brain has roughly 10x more white matter.
  2. The female brain’s corpus callossum (the cord connecting the two halves of your brain) is about 10% thicker on average.

White matter and the connectivity between the hemispheres are collectively responsible for the ability to make inferences, drive curiosity and discovery oriented decision-making, integrate large caches of information and remain open to changes in how one navigates problems and solutions. The reason for this is pretty simple. White matter is made up of myelinated axons. An axon’s job is to connect to other axons and collectively, they serve as the brain’s information highway connecting the points where data is stored (grey matter). With more white matter, a female brain has more myelinated axons v. the unmyelinated version of grey matter and as a result, more interconnectivity and interaction among the data storage centers2.

Think of white matter as the train lines in a subway or commuter rail and the grey matter as the individual stations. The more stations that are interconnected, the more there will be travel between all the points, the more often the travel will occur and the more station hopping there may be on a single trip. It’s one of the reasons women can have a multi-dimensional conversation without losing track of all the different topics being discussed simultaneously.

What this means in teaching women in a mission-oriented paradigm like self-defense? The subtle increase in gray matter causes men to be slightly more inclined to approach a task through a mission directed mindset. Get it done. “I need new boxing gloves” – goes to vendor or store, finds boxing gloves of correct weight –buys gloves. Done.

Women are more likely to consider how long the previous gloves lasted her and how they were used during that time frame. She may measure out the weight of the gloves against her training goals and her upper body strength along with the color and design as they influence how she feels about the gloves. She will investigate the vendor as well as the product and do more comparison shopping. If this is the first pair of gloves, the guy is going to ask the instructor: what should I buy? Tell him 18 oz gloves in X price range and he’s good to go. She is going to want to know more information, or may go out to buy them and come back with a fistful of questions instead of a pair of gloves.

On the mat, tell him he needs to move offline at a 45-degree angle and he has a mission to accomplish. Done. Tell this to her and out of respect and the power differential, she may jump in with the same mission-oriented approach. For a while. Eventually, she is going to wonder about why the 45 degrees is the preferred angle for this skill. She is going to think about other situations and circumstances and where the failure point is.

She may even play around with the failure point. Like she investigated the purchase of her gloves, she is going to investigate the technique. If no one else is doing this in class, she may wait until she’s off by herself, away from the critical eye of her fellow students and instructors. She may play with it in her thoughts and visualize it instead of a physical test of the thing, but she is going to play with it.

Tiger in the Sheets, and in the Streets? Will That Drive Your Man Away? – Mirav Tarkka

Is it just the looks that count?

When I ask men “what makes me sexy in your eyes”? I hear everything except comments about my body. It is not your breasts, legs or other physical features that make you sexy, it is your confidence. From the Mona Lisa to Marilyn Monroe and Angelina Jolie, to women whose beauty isn’t that “clearly out there” (like me!), if you are confident, it passes layers of cellulite, fat or so called “ugliness”, you will be attractive, because a woman who is confident in herself, loves herself, is in control of her life and her surroundings, and doesn’t wait for prince charming to save her, is sexy. Now, what does that have to do with self defense?

Can he handle you?

When a woman takes “a man’s role” and trains herself to be able to protect herself and her loved ones, many things can happen to the man’s mind: he feels emasculated. Isn’t he the one supposed to protect her? He feels less of a man, but at the same time he also admires her, and trusts her more to be able to do that job. Men’s reactions to this vary but the problem today is that most men feel less of a man instead of pure admiration because of their weakness and fear caused by their life experiences. This is contributed to by factors like the media, parents, socialisation and so on…. resulting in a man maybe trying to take away your power (in radical terms: becoming an aggressor, humiliating you, belittling you and so on) which in his mind can be compared to a “fight” reaction. On the other hand there can be the “missing man”. Every strong woman has had loads of those. Men who escape when feeling overpowered. They might find another woman, an intense job, or just act very coldly. They become absent; missing. Sex becomes horrible, almost as if you are forcing him to have sex with you. He isn’t there any more.

Beauty in the eye of the beholder

There is the rare man who would admire your increasing power and journey, and encourage it. You become like 2 race horses, riding side by side, regardless of whether the man was sitting on top of you before (you are the horse) trying to control you with his power, and then fell off your back because you wouldn’t surrender. The 2 race horses do it cheerfully, encouraging one another, admiring, persuading to continue, to grow! (or go!) He finds you as sexy as possible, and you do too, and the sex- the sex is incredible. A fascinating, breathtaking , powerful sensation, instead of the half asleep one you had before (the missing man).

A woman who is powerful, and empowered does that. What do you prefer? To live in a secure “comfort” zone where your prince charming is with you because he feels “on the top” but the minute the game changes he is gone? It is not real? Or to be with someone who lets you be who you were meant to be? Free, strong, sexy?

Lose the fear factor!

There is another, perhaps surprising connection between sex and self defense. A person who practises sd has less fear of death, knowing there are less chances that would occur. A study I did as my theses for my psychology degree showed that the more there is a fear of death, the more casual sex appears. Casual sex can be amazing, yes, but it doesn’t have the debt a real and good sexual relationship has, because to be in sync with your partner sexually, he has to know your body, your likes and dislikes, as so do you. As you reach your peak of sexuality, you start to understand that you can have more than just a physical orgasm, you can have an almost spiritual one, with the right partner. It is rare, difficult to find, but not impossible. And you don´t find it by “trial and error”, you find it by getting to know that person on a deeper level. The better, deeper sexual relationship happens with the more steady relationship (monogamy). Now, the less fear you have of death, the less partners you have (your need to leave children after you is lessened) therefore the sexuality and sexual connection is increased. You see, it is scientific! So if you practise self defense, you fear death less also on a subconscious level, therefore have better sexuality in your life.

And that, my friends, is yet another reason why you should learn to protect yourself. Just for the sex of it!

The Missing Link in (Almost) Every Self-Defense Class – Mirav Tarkka

You made the first step, physically, and enrolled into a self-defense class.

Feeling proud of yourself, but also a bit scared, you walk into the gym. Most probably it is all full of men, most probably the instructor is a man. “OK, cool, because a man will probably be the one I will be attacked by” you think to yourself. The class begins. An active warm-up, presentation of a threat, and a solution. “How will I remember this under stress?” you ask the coach. “It is a matter of practice. The more you practice, the better your skills will be” the coach answers. “OK, but … what do I do if I freeze? If I don’t remember? If I am too scared?” “Well”, the coach answers “you have to practice so many times that there will be no place for fear”.

Obviously, he has no idea what fear is. He also has no idea what it means to be a woman.

Being a woman means you will be a much more probable target for rape. It means you are ALREADY considered a weak and easy victim, because you are one (sorry to be in your faces like that, but it is true). It also means, that at a psychological level, when you are attacked your brain goes in millions of other directions, instead of the male brain that goes in….one. A woman’s brain can think seven thoughts all at once, while a male’s brain thinks one at the time. At a time of stress, you might be thinking about what you are going to make for lunch, your shopping list, your house work, your hair, the new eyeliner you wanted to get on the way, it is pay-day and so on.  Meaning it will take you so much longer to react to real time danger, and to use your intuition properly to avoid that danger, so no amount of repetitions, tornado kicks and knees to the groin will help if your mind shuts down or even slows down.

It is very likely that your instructor doesn’t know that. Doesn’t even understand that. The understanding of the body as a unit of physical, mental and emotional components is not a common one, unfortunately,

Luckily, you have me to help you. Your mind is, and always will be, your strongest and undefeated weapon. There are so many ways to train it, to train yourself psychologically not to eliminate fear, but to work with it, as well as your memory, your inner power and your calm (most important to avoid panic). You can be the weakest, most unfit and unskilled person but with an oiled up mind and good situational awareness, not to mention the energy field you create around you by using your mind in a certain way, you will be much more likely to survive and even avoid certain situations, than a martial arts specialist.

To be honest, most people who actually practice martial arts are falsely confident and ruled by their ego, lacking the capacity to tune themselves to the situation mentally and psychologically, ending up badly injured or even dead in a street situation.  As much as you can be a world champion fighter, there is not much you can do vs. a knife or gun attack, for example. But with the “correct” behavour and thinking, you can either avoid getting into danger in the first place, or talk your way into survival (NLP manipulating).

So what  I am saying is, yes by all means train physically, make your body stronger and your skills better, but try to find a coach that understands the importance of mental training. If you can’t find one, or even combine with one, you can use my mental training methods with your class or within your every day activities.  Remember that the only power that can never be taken away from you, is in your mind.

Fed Up With the Way Women are Treated? – Randy King

So, on the Randy King North American Tour 2015 summer edition, we had a couple of women’s self-defense seminars that we taught. We teach two versions of our women’s self-defense seminar, number one is a three hour course pretty much making you aware of danger, what to look for, how to avoid it, and then there’s our two day course which has some physical techniques. One of my courses was done on a reserve. The questions that were asked of me at that seminar blew my mind. It made me realize that I don’t understand the plight of women in situations like that. So many answers I thought would work wouldn’t work, so many questions were so specific, about the specific attacker that they had, like “when my attacker does this”, not “what if my attacker is this big”. It made me re-think self-defense for women.

Number one, education is way more important than technique, there’s no way around that. There is no way a three hour course of kicking a man in a bullet suit in the groin that you’re going to become good at defending yourself against anybody. You might be able to run away from a predator, it’s not going to stop an uncle or a cousin from beating on you, it is not going to stop that guy at work. Women need to have more education on what they can and cannot do, and men need more education on treating women not like animals.

We have a link to this as well on our Facebook page if you follow us on Facebook. We put up an article about a girl who was talking about her version of what men do to women, and how her day was every day. It blew my mind, and it was so foreign to me, the concept of what was happening to this woman, that I almost didn’t believe it. So, I put it out to the ladies of KPC, and I asked them, “ladies, is this true, is this lady crazy, what’s going on?”  From a lot of women that I trust and respect, I got a lot of answers that made me sick to my stomach.

Guys, what the fuck are you doing out there?

This is not every person out there, there’s a lot of nice guys out there that are doing stuff, but man there’s a lot of you wrecking it for all of us. I don’t understand your ability, your thought process, that you think you own somebody, that you can stop somebody. Or you can get mad at somebody for not wanting to have sex with you.

I saw a really funny meme on the Internet and it said, “Why is the friend zone not a thing? Because women are not fucking vending machines that you put tokens into then receive sex.”

Women’s self-defense is a joke in a lot of places because a) the people teaching don’t understand the problem, and  b) what they are teaching is a physical response that works against male-to-male violence, they don’t understand the female social-asocial thing. There’s a movement to say that it’s better to teach boys not to rape – everybody wants a universal reason for why things are happening. People want to blame it on porn or the way men are raised or religion or whatever. Everyone wants the big bad wolf in the woods, that is going to be able get shot once and all our problems will go away. This inequality and un-safety issue with women is across the board, everybody’s fucking this up. Men are fucking it up, government agencies are fucking it up, the women are fucking it up. People are taking unnecessary risks on the order of “this shouldn’t happen to me”.

There has to be a way to fix this. The only person who is in charge of your safety is you. I say this so much we have a meme about it. You cannot wait and think that there’s going to be a knight in shining armor or a person’s going to save you when you are in trouble. When seconds count, police are minutes away.

I know this rant is going longer than normal but this is really pissing me off. Reading this blog, reading the woman’s response, knowing that people I give a shit about and care about are scared out of their minds to go anywhere and it’s an act of bravery to go to the grocery store is not fucking acceptable.

Women, we can’t fix the system right now, it’s on your onus. Get as much education as possible, learn the laws, learn what tools are good, learn the bad people in the neighborhood, do everything you can to keep yourself safe because it looks like nobody else is out there to help you.

Looking for more resources on how to up your game in the reality based training world? well sign up now for the CRGI Digital Dojo.


The Sixth and Seventh Rules – Teja Van Wicklen

Here are episodes 6 and 7 from Teja Van Wicklen as she takes us through her Mommy and Me Self Defense course.

We will be putting 2 downloads a week here  so subscribers can collect the set for FREE, it is available on amazon for $13.98.

The Sixth Rule

The Seventh Rule


[decisiontree id=”4868

The Angela Meyer Interview Part V – Erik Kondo

Erik: I think that much of self-defense can be thought of in terms of boundary setting. IMO, boundary setting is comprised of the three elements of Respect, Communication, and Enforcement. Most people think that all physical self-defense is Enforcement.

But I think physical self-defense can be divided into two overlapping categories:

  1. Physical actions that are primarily Communication.
  2. Physical actions that are primarily Enforcement.

Defense actions that are “resistance” based are really Communication. These actions send a message of non-compliance. But Enforcement requires actions that go beyond resistance and actually “force” resolution by injuring and/or disabling the attacker.

I think that many times WSD instructors and students confuse these two different types of physical actions. For example, Resistance/Communication is only effective against lowly motivated attackers who are looking for victims that will not resist. But a highly motivated attacker will not be stopped by Resistance/Communication. This type of person must be dealt with through the use of true Force/Enforcement.

Problems come about when the Defender employs Resistance/Communication when she should be using Force/Enforcement or the Defender uses Force/Enforcement when Resistance/Communication would have been sufficient.

Therefore, effective self-defense requires knowing the difference between Communication and Enforcement and when which type is required.

What are your thoughts on what I said? Can you think of specific examples of what I am referring to?

Angela: I agree completely and really like the language you’ve coined around this.  I think so often when we are talking about Women’s Self Defense, we have this idea of being a badass on the streets and being able to “I wish a motherfucker would” stare down an attacker, when the reality is, most attacks will happen from men you know.  AKA, highly motivated, or driven by emotional content.

So, how do we teach this in WSD classes/ workshops?  Like any type of Self Defense or Martial Arts that is taught, there are layers to the teaching.  For the foundational classes or “one off” workshops, in Women’s Self Defense, I think the most important take away is boundary setting through physical intensity and becoming more familiar with limbic brain processes.

For those who continue to train and become more serious, the key word is “stress inoculation”.  I do not think this is just physical, although I do think physical is the “gateway.” Physical, mental, emotional training is all connected.  For example, I have trained in Muay Thai,  Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling for many years.  I think I’m highly competent in the physical movements during training.  That said, I still struggle with freezing if my brain goes into a limbic state. Consistent training and stress inoculation in a safe and controlled environment has greatly helped me to access the ability to act in these situations instead of freeze, but I do still have a lot of work to do.

Circling back to your question, I think we must start with the psychological realm (also knowing that when we are talking about “Women’s Self Defense” we must take into consideration different cultures, socio economics, age, well/sick, etc., and not lump all women into one category)

How do we live our everyday lives?  This needs to be brought to light… day one… through some type of stress inoculation.

Once a woman has entered this realm, then I think introducing weapons into the equation is necessary, since 99 percent of the time, women will not be successful in “beating up” a larger man even if he is “untrained” and she is “trained”.  It’s just bullshit to think that can happen. It’s a Hollywood mentality.

I do believe learning to fight and becoming stress inoculated is the first step, because without this, it’s not realistic to add on a weapon.  If I don’t understand “push/pull” energy, if I freeze when I’m hit, if I lay down and die, a weapon will certainly not save me.

I think it is extremely important and intellectually honest to make the distinction between lowly and highly motivated attackers.  This is why I think it is bullshit to teach “moves” in a WSD workshop or class and insinuate these “moves” will save you. This work is much deeper and complex than earning moves. I’m going to bring it back to working with psychology (especially, limbic response) through physical, emotional and mental stress inoculation.

Erik: I think that honesty and authenticity are two qualities that are missing in much selfdefense instruction.

I have a theory that instinctive movements are influenced greatly by the person’s emotional state. And a certain group of movements are consistent with the emotion of FEAR and another is consistent with the emotion of ANGER. Many of these movements are opposites. For example, the emotion of anger creates movements that bring someone closer to the person that she is afraid of. I call these IN Movements. While the emotion of fear drives the person to want to move away. I call these OUT Movements.

When you consider many physical self-defense techniques, you will notice that many of the technically effective ones require the defender to “attack the attacker” by closing/shutting him down or engaging in close quarter strikes, joint locks or chokes. What this means is that the defender needs to move closer to the person that she fears. These movements are not consistent with the defender’s primary emotion of fear. They are consistent with anger.

In other words, regardless of the theoretical effectiveness of the technique or how well the student can perform the technique when not fearful. She will most likely not be able to perform these techniques when in a fearful state. On the other hand, she is more likely to execute techniques that are consistent with being afraid such as kicking and pushing away in order to create the opportunity to escape.

For example, making a fist and punching is an anger action. Whereas an open-handed push away is more likely to be a fear action. This is not a question of which movement is more effective. It is a question of which movement is more likely to be executed given the projected emotional state of the defender. If the action is intended to be used by a female defender against an attempted stranger attack, it is highly likely that fear will be woman’s primary emotion. Therefore, those techniques that involved the woman pulling IN her attacker to choke/gouge/bite him are unlikely to be carried out, regardless of their underlying effectiveness.

It is for this reason that WSD self-defense instructors are constantly trying to get women to “get mad” when simulating a self-defense scenario. Or they use the analogy of the “protective mother” fighting to save her children. The instructors intuitively recognize that anger is an essential element for success in their fighting methodology. I think these instructors also need to understand is that they need to teach an alternative methodology that is suitable for the fearful defender too. It is not enough to only provide students with an Anger Toolbox. They must also have a Fear Toolbox. And students need to understand how their emotions are likely to override the trained movements that are not consistent with their emotional state.

here are small group of movements that are consistent with both the anger and fear state. I think that the hammer fist striking qualifies because you can use it in anger and also in fear to hit someone away with or without a weapon.

What are your thoughts on IN and OUT Movements?

Angela: I am in complete agreement with this theory and from my experience in teaching Women’s Self Defense, most women who have been through traumatic experiences, express anger and rage when training, because when the actual attack took place, they froze in fear.  They use mottos like “never again mother fucker (s)” Anger is a very powerful energy and when used properly can fuel a sense of fearlessness needed to create “IN” movements.

I also think it is important to use anger as a tool for women to find voice and authenticity in the world.  A woman who has been told to shut up and look pretty her whole life can find a lot of power through physical modalities that ask her to become bigger, aggressive and not selfconscious. That said, as someone who is a fighter and struggles with anxiety, I know first-hand that when put in a fight or flight situation, where huge adrenaline dumps are a factor, my fear or “OUT” movements are dominant.

In my most recent fight, I was able to override anxiety, by changing my eyes to “mean eyes” and sounding off in a very scary way every time i would strike.  These “anger” actions made me feel more powerful, therefore actually physically exhibiting more power.  This tactic worked beautifully in round one, but in the second round where her forward pressure didn’t stop and I was met with a situation that I had not planned for, fear became my dominant response, my eyes changed and I had more freeze responses, not able to think or take action.  After round two in the corner my coach sat me down and basically slapped me awake with his words, “What the fuck are you doing?  You are not scared of her.  Change your eyes right now.”  With just the coaching and shifting my state through my gaze and energy, I was able to translate the fear back into anger which felt more powerful.

These shifts take time, and self-awareness practice.  I think this is vital in teaching women’s self defense.  How do we, or can we in a limbic state, choose how you want to show up?  What are tools that can get us there?  Changing your eyes from deer in headlights to slits? Changing facial expressions and posture?

I think we start here and then move to other physical techniques that address the reality in an attack most women who are untrained or very little trained are going to have the natural response of fear.

Erik: In the example of your ring fight. When you are feeling Angry what images flash into your mind? And when you are feeling Fearful, how do the images change?

What do you “see” happening, if only for a moment?

By images, I mean rapid flashes of the future within the context of the fight. These images are part of your emotional mind communicating with you.

 Angela:  “In the example of your ring fight. When you are feeling Angry what images flash into your mind?”

Blood.  Lion with sharp teeth devouring its prey. Goddess Kali. Predator animal that kills without concern or thought for another’s humanity.

“And when you are feeling Fearful, how do the images change?”

I see myself scared…more as a little girl. Tender. tears. an animal who plays dead for survival purposes.

“What do you “see” happening, if only for a moment?”

First round of last fight.  Saw me as the predator.  Kill shots. Dominating.  Out for blood.  Invincible

Second round of last fight: Saw her crazy eyes.  Constant pressure forward without technique, but just animalistic aggression. I saw myself getting mentally tired, because I was afraid that physical I could gas out if I was that aggressive.

Third round of last fight:  I saw me losing and didn’t want that outcome. I still didn’t go back to the kill switch, but I was not running.  I saw me winning because I wanted to.

“By images, I mean rapid flashes of the future within the context of the fight. These images are part of your emotional mind communicating with you.”

When angry:  Predator animal.  Wild animal.  Fangs out. ability to kill without concern for humanity or feelings

When afraid. Myself as a little girl. hiding. running. not trusting in my own capacity to fight.

CRGI would like to express our sincere thanks to Angela for this interview.


The Angela Meyer Interview Part IV – Erik Kondo

Erik: I have noticed a common complaint among instructors who teach WSD. They complain there is a lack of interest from most women for participating in self-defense classes. There are bursts of interest that usually coincide with a highly publicized assault, but in general, women don’t seem to be motivated to take classes.
What are your thoughts on this issue and how do you feel more women can be encouraged to get involved in self-defense training?

Angela: I feel like it’s all about the environment created. We live in a world that is still operating with gender norms and socialized patterns of behavior that differ for men and women. I definitely see “bursts of interest” coinciding with current events, (Our recent administration has caused a huge rise in WSD in Washington DC), but I also see something more.

Within any Movement, people need to be inspired by the “why.” Why will it benefit a woman to train in Self Defense? To make her safer from a statistically low violent attack? To have better skills to deal with assholes on the street who say shit? For therapeutic reasons from previous trauma? To burn calories?

When we are dealing with people who have busy lives, limited resources, schedules, and proximity to training facilities, the question becomes what will be the motivating factor(s) to commit? I’m not sure the latter reasons are a strong enough catalyst, especially when we are dealing with a significant “intimidation” factor for most women.

For instance, I know it is MUCH safer to wear my bike helmet biking through DC, but I don’t always wear it, because I forget or I don’t want to carry it around. The potential risk is not enough catalyst for me, but I wholeheartedly agree wearing it could prevent serious injury if I had an accident.

But, if for me, wearing a bike helmet had a direct effect on my everyday life, I may be more serious about making that happen.

Or take a practice like meditation. At some point, I need to directly understand how a daily meditation practice will positively affect my life. If I don’t believe it will, am I likely to do it? I may “will” myself for a period of time, but if I don’t have my own “why” and a direct experience for my everyday life, I would be less likely to make the time to meditate.

These are random analogies, but…when we are dealing with Women’s Self Defense, we are also dealing with a high level of intimidation, lack of comfort, and fear on top of all the other stuff.

So how can we create a “why” that has an immediate effect on their everyday lives? Because I wholeheartedly believe it does. (boundary setting) This is where Self Defense begins WAY beyond learning techniques and how to fight. As a teacher, I use the physical modalities to tap into something much deeper and shed light on daily patterns, belief systems, mannerisms and habits.

I also do not think anything exists in a vacuum. The physical training is a necessity to tap into the deeper work.

I come full circle in answering your question. I see the “trend” of women’s self-defense rising and I see out of this trend, more women seriously interested and committed to training in Self Defense. I think this starts with the way we teach. Not wishy washy, “Sex in the City” shit, but some serious physical intensity, AND the encouragement to pay attention to what bubbles to the surface…aka: self-awareness. What happens when you are physically uncomfortable? Do you habitually say, “I’m sorry”? Do you feel self-conscious when you yell? Do you love hitting shit? Do you make excuses? This kind of awareness and training has a direct effect on women’s everyday lives because it is all integrated. Every relationship: work, intimate, family, strangers, has a direct correlation to this deeper awareness of how we are showing up in our lives. (boundary setting) I’ve found that women get this. They are inspired by it. They find a “why” in it, which inspires them to find the time, resources, commitment for continued training.

Erik: You brought up several points that I think are worth expanding up.

Self-defense training is a matter of the Risk vs. Reward a/ka Cost vs. Benefit equation. In this case, for most women, the Benefit is not worth the Cost. Where the Benefits are defined solely in terms of dealing with some future unlikely stranger attack and/or verbal harassment and the Costs are the immediate use of time, money, and the intimidation created by participating in the class itself.
In this case, the immediate and certain Costs outweigh the future and uncertain Benefits.

Question #1: How would you describe the female “Intimidation” aspect? And how can it be reduced?

Question #2: Many in the Self-Defense Industry (The Merchants of Fear) use FEAR as the means to circumvent the Cost/Benefit equation. They use the motivation of fear as the primary driver for getting women to attend classes. This situation results in students attending a class or two as a means to reduce their fear (Fear Management). But as soon as their level fear dissipates, so does their desire for training.

I think you are talking about expanding upon the Reward/Benefit side of the equation so that it becomes greater than the associated Risk/Cost. Not being attacked/harassed is a Negative Reward in that you get the reward when something doesn’t happen. And most people in safe communities get this reward automatically. Dealing with an actual attack and/or harassment has a negative association since you still have been attacked and/or harassed.

On the other hand, Positive Rewards are tangible benefits that have an immediate benefit. Some of these benefits revolve around creating more respectful interpersonal relationships, greater self-esteem and confidence, improved self-awareness, effective boundary setting skills, and more. These expanded benefits can be obtained without having to actually be attacked.

Question #3: In my opinion, the commonly used Self-Defense Training is like an Insurance Policy analogy provides the wrong impression. The implication is that the Payout only happens if/when you get attacked and there is a continual associated cost. I think Self-Defense Training is more like your health. The more effort you put into improving your health, the greater the benefit regardless of if you get ill or receive an injury.

You said: “Self Defense begins WAY beyond learning techniques and how to fight. As a teacher, I use the physical modalities to tap into something much deeper and shed light on daily patterns, belief systems, mannerisms and habits.”

I think this is the root of an issue that causes great confusion in the Self-Defense Industry. The physical fighting aspect of self-defense is only a fractional part of complete Self-Defense (personal safety). Therefore, it should also be a fractional part of self-defense training. But physical training is also a vehicle needed to reach the student’s authentic self. In other words, self-defense training that is not physical is likely to only reach into the student’s cognitive mind. While this aspect is very important, it takes physical training to reach into the student’s nonconscious processes and emotional mind. And not just any kind of physical training will do that. It takes authentic physical training to access the student’s authentic self.

Question #4: It is here that opinions start to diverge. What fraction of self-defense training should be physical and what fraction be non-physical? What should the non-physical fraction entail? What constitutes “authentic physical training”? What are the diminishing returns of physical training? In other words, once the student has received a certain quantity and quality of physical training, does it start to have less and less ability to reach the student’s authentic self? And if so, how can the physical training itself be modified to keep providing solid returns on investment? Is it necessary to replicate the actual circumstances of an attack to create authentic physical training, or depending upon the individual involved, can authenticity be created WITHOUT making the training as realistic as possible?

In a nut shell, I think the authenticity of the student’s response created is more important than how it is actually created. That leaves open for a wide variety of different methodologies for physical training, but they should produce a relatively narrow result.

These are general questions. It is not necessary for you to answer them all. Please feel free to respond as you wish.

Angela: RE: Question #1. My initial response would be, more female teachers. We are primal creatures who see pattern recognition. When I see a woman teaching, I also see the possibility of me being like that. If I see a man, that’s great too. I have had numerous male instructors and coaches that are phenomenal, but there is also an unconscious understanding that I can never be that for obvious physiological reasons.

RE Question #2. YES a million times to this paragraph. After all of the Women’s Self Defense workshops/events that I teach, I make sure to spend time talking to each woman or groups of women and just listen. what I am hearing as a common thread is, they love the fact, that I make Self Defense not just about the physical stuff, but also applicable to their everyday lives. The majority of women in these workshops have a personal “aha” moment about how they are showing up in their daily life, and “in turn” asking the question, “why?” From this awareness they can choose consciously to do something different. There is extreme power in this conscious act of choosing.

As a teacher, I am not concerned about pushing women to their physical red lines…. I’m a natural at it. I demand it of myself. I ask others to hold me accountable. I tell them at the beginning, I am not there to be their friend or get them to “like me,” My job is to ruffle feathers and if they felt uncomfortable, or hated me just a little bit, I did my job. I do not teach anything physical, without understanding a “why” to the technical part of my teaching, therefore I don’t feel any sense of being a “poser” in the physical realm.

From that “real” and tangible space, I can ask these deeper questions without fear of being “too soft”, “woo woo” or conceptual.

RE Question #3: A million times yes to this statement.

RE: Question #4: I think my answer to the latter questions is, Live relentlessly into the questions, not the answers. Be okay with, “I don’t know.” As a Buddhist Chaplain, End of Life care counselor, and hospice worker, the “money” answer would be….“I don’t know” It takes gritty courage to live into the questions, without a need to find ground or certainty beneath us. Because the most honest answer is, there are not hard and fast rules. We are all going to die and thinking we can out-smart, out-buy, or out-control, that reality will always bite us in the ass.

I also understand this way of thinking is on a much broader and conceptual reality plane. We as human beings want and need answers and structure “Knowing and controlling” are not necessarily limiting, unless bastardized into truth and concrete “answers.” So at this point, it is vital to have the conversations, communicate and practice. Being willing to try and fail, or try and get feedback, or try and succeed, it necessary.


[decisiontree id=”4868

The Fourth and Fifth Rules – Teja Van Wicklen

Here are episodes 4 and 5 from Teja Van Wicklen as she takes us through her Mommy and Me Self Defense course.

We will be putting 2 downloads a week here  so subscribers can collect the set for FREE, it is available on amazon for $13.98.

The Fourth Rule

The Fifth Rule


[decisiontree id=”4868

The Angela Meyer Interview Part III – Erik Kondo

Erik: I am interested in your opinion on female runners and personal safety. What are some of your thoughts on training women to deal with their fears and concerns?

Angela: My first response would be, don’t run, train in Martial Arts and Self Defense instead. BUT I spent many years as an outdoor runner and even ran a marathon at one point (which was not the best decision for my body).

This is a serious issue and there have been several incidents where I live, in Washington DC, where female runners have been attacked, especially early in the am.

I think first and foremost, trusting intuition and that “gut” feeling of safety/unsafety is key when dealing with outdoor running as a woman.  For instance, I remember many years ago when I lived in AL.  I was running during the day on a trail in the middle of nowhere.  There was a part of the trail that paralleled with a small highway.  As I ran by the highway, a truck with 3 men hastily pulled off onto the shoulder.  There were no other cars or people around. They got out of the car and started walking towards the trail.  For a split second I thought, “Ang, they probably just have to go to the bathroom, don’t freak out,” But in the next split second, I started sprinting for my life.  I did not care what I looked like, I followed the fear in my gut. As I started to sprint, they realized it was probably not worth it to chase me, and yelled things like, “We just wanted to talk to you.”

I reiterate, when we are talking about Self Defense, we are referring to winning moments in time. I won that moment in time, but I just as easily could have not.

I have many women ask about carrying pepper spray while running.   My response to that is, “If carrying something makes you feel safer, do it, but unless you’re trained in using pepper spray, keys or a tazer, the reality of being able to access and use properly in a moment of “fight or flight” is slim.  Using weapons, takes just as much training as defending weapons and this is where I always default back to the real work of Self Defense, especially when we are specifying women.  Learning to fight is key, instead of being “weapon-centric” one must learn to fight on a deeper level and always look for exit strategies, weapons in a real-life environment, and the ability to use our bodies as natural weapons.  We must begin at the preemptive, psychological, sociological patterns that are deeply ingrained in us and it’s all connected.

Erik: In think that you brought up an interesting issue here.

On a statistical basis, I think that the majority of women are on some level effected by Fear of Violence while running and a smaller proportion are effected by verbal harassment and threatening behavior. And a very small proportion are effected by actual physical assaults. But the consequences of these assaults are severe.

Therefore, regarding Fear of Violence, carrying a weapon may have a soothing effect. In that case, the weapon provides a benefit. It also may help them in terms of verbal harassment since the person many feel less vulnerable and be more assertive, but, a major problem occurs in the event that they actually have to deploy the weapon.

In that case, not knowing how and when (legally and tactically) to use the weapon may have the effect of worsening the situation. In addition, they may have false confidence regarding their weapon’s capabilities which may encourage them to take more risk than they would without having a weapon. And of course, there is always the issue of not having the psychological will to use the weapon. Not to mention, the practical issue of carrying it.

Then again, there are always those situations, where having a weapon available may become the determining factor for safety.

Therefore, I think it can be reasonably said that carrying a weapon has both positives and negatives associated with it. The factors will vary from individual to individual, from environment to environment, and from incident to incident.

Reviewing what you said “We must begin at the preemptive, psychological, sociological patterns that are deeply ingrained in us and it’s all connected.”

These are deep issues that cannot be resolved in a few hours of instruction. Neither can the ability to learn and execute physical technique be learned in a few hours.

Therefore, for a one-time class with women who are unlikely to take additional classes, what do you feel is the most important aspect to focus on? In other words, do you think it is more important to focus on problems that are more likely to occur, but have less physical consequences, such as verbal harassment and sexual coercion. Or problems that are less likely to occur, but have greater physical consequences such as violent stranger assaults?

Angela: A big YES to all you said.  I am learning so much from your questions and deeply grateful for the process.

When I teach Women’s Self Defense workshops (or any “once off” training) I make sure they understand:

They are only dipping the tiny tip of their baby toenail into the vast waters of “Self Defense”.

There is nothing I am about to say/teach in this class/workshop that will guarantee a magical shield of safety.  I also tell them if they hear teachers who say, “these 3 techniques will make you safe.”  Run. Fast. In the other direction.

It comes back to the importance of boundary setting. I think this is the first vitally important shield to owning your own body and space.  Women being verbally harassed, sexual coerced, or violently assaulted are symptoms of our culture.  They happen.  Sometimes really often.  It’s disgusting.  It’s not right. And in no way is it a women’s “fault”.    That said, we as women, can start to make personal choices to how we want to show up in the world. Do we say we are sorry, just because we are apologizing our existence away, or are we really sorry for something?  Do we giggle, because we like to laugh and have fun? Or does aggression and confrontation make us uncomfortable? Are we not able to yell because we really don’t have the capability, or are we so self-conscious about how we come across? Do we always take care of others because we really want to, or are we just programmed that way?

I think this is the most important aspect to focus on. Through an intense, uncomfortable, physical experience, how do I as a teacher, shed light on everyday habits and engrained belief systems, that keep them from being a fucking powerhouse?  Awareness is key.  If I can just plant a few seeds that will take root quickly or grow over a long period of time, I have done my job of making a woman safer. I will never know when or if the seeds will take root, but I’ll try like hell to sew them.

I do think it is VERY important to acknowledge that every woman is different and there not a cookie cutter answer.

I had an experience the other night.  I was sleeping alone and thought someone broke in the window of my apartment.  I struggle from pretty severe anxiety.  It shuts me down, especially in a moment of primal fear. I went through all my self Defense 101 checkpoints. What could I use as a weapon? Where are my exits?  What will I do to get out quickly and where will I run?  The process was legit and proactive…but the real problem, was, can I actually do this?  My body feels shut down in fear. I “know” all of these things intellectually but can I do them?  It’s not an easy answer and I think we are doing a disservice to all women, when we give pat answers.

So to reiterate, I think the most important thing to start teaching women from day one:  Bringing awareness to how they move through their everyday world.  Does this way serve them and make them safer and stronger?


[decisiontree id=”4868